Gaming Steve

MMORPG Archives - Page 2

April 20, 2006

Massive Battlegrounds Enhancements Incoming!

World of Warcraft BattlegroundsIt's been a few months since any really good World of Warcraft gossip was leaked so I figured start-up the rumor mill once again.

Sure WoW might not have the best PvP system out there, but more times than not I have a blast playing Battlegrounds. The only problem is the wait -- the oh so long wait -- to get into a match. Often I have to wait hours to get into a match, especially if I want to play Alterac Valley, and then once I’m in I usually end up playing against the same old players time after time after time.

Well good news is coming to all you Battlegrounds veterans out there … and a lot sooner than you think! Blizzard is hard at work right now creating new enhanced Battlegrounds servers. These servers will no longer be regulated to a single realm, but cross-linked across Realms to create an diverse PvP experience! Right now they are planning on linking 16 realms together per Battleground server for massive PvP action. You could imagine how this can really help out the Battlegrounds situation, not only will the queues go much faster but you'll finally get a chance to fight across Realms.

And the best part? This enhancement is going to be released very shortly; most likely by patch 1.12 or 1.13 at the latest. But to be honest that’s nothing compared to what they're planning for the future.

Imagine the features of Battle.net combined into the world of Battlegrounds: Worldwide rankings, tournaments, ladders, and more, only for the entire world of Battlegrounds. Yes, Battlegrounds will undergo its most radical change during the release of Burning Crusade expansion with Battlegrounds becoming a true worldwide tournament! Of course with The Burning Crusade slated for release at the end of this year, if not next year, this is still a long way off. But at least the interim patch should greatly increase the Battlegrounds experience.

With Blizzard finally getting around to linking the Realms up to each other does that mean that we might actually start to see more cross-realm game features? Who's to know, but Blizzard sure didn't buy 1500 new servers just for fun!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 PM | Posted to MMORPG |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 20, 2006

Gaming Steve Episode 43 - 03.20.2006

Guild Wars FactionsToday is the first day of the Game Developers Conference, but before I even set foot into the convention center I got a chance to sit down and chat with Jeff Strain, Co-Founder of ArenaNet and makers of Guild Wars.

Jeff and I talk for over an hour and cover a huge number of topics. Find out how on earth they expect to release a brand new Guild Wars Campaign twice a year(!), more details on the technology behind ArenaNet, how they manage to continuously balance the game, Jeff's thoughts on various MMO subscription models, as well as much more. Enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 43 Program

  • 00:02:28 Interview with Jeff Strain from ArenaNet, makers of Guild Wars and the upcoming Guild Wars: Factions.
  • 01:07:19 My thoughts on the game and the upcoming Game Developers Conference 2006.
Download the show (74 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 43 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
Add the Gaming Steve Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator.
Vote for Gaming Steve on Podcast Alley.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 10:00 AM | Posted to Interview | MMORPG | Podcast |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 17, 2006

Making a Living in a Virtual World

Second LifeOne MMORPG that is quietly chugging along is Second Life which now sports over 130,000 users. For those unfamiliar with Second Life it focuses primarily on the social aspects of an MMO rather than the "game" aspects. Users spend their time chatting, exploring, and building this virtual world. And when I when I mean that users build this world, I mean they build it as nearly all the content within the game is user-created.

Second Life has an extremely robust modeling and physics system which allows users to build anything. And when I mean you can create anything, I mean anything. Avatars, clothing, homes, fashion accessories, furnishings, animals, vehicles, plants, gadgets ... all of these and more can be created and used within the game. You can even create and use "body parts" -- any type of body part -- which makes for a very interesting social environment within Second Life ... but that's for another column!

What this column about is the quickly expanding secondary market within Second Life. For the right price you can buy custom-created avatar with custom artwork and effects, or you can buy a fire-breathing dragon as a pet, or remote-controller submarine, or just about anything else you can imagine. And people are starting to make real money creating virtual items; enough money that they're quitting their day job and becoming a full-time operator of a digital shop.

There are literally dozens of web-sites dedicated to selling in-game items for real money. Some such as SLBoutique and SL Exchange allow you to buy the same sort of products you might find in department store. While d'Alliez Island Rentals is a virtual real estate agency which paid Linden Labs, the publisher of Second Life, $1,250 for each island they own. They in turn rent out lots on these islands for $15 to $75 per month and make a nice little profit in the process.

And there is some serious money to be made in virtual property. Reportedly Anshe Chung, one of the most famous landowners in Second Life, makes more than $150,000 per year on her various interests. That is some serious real-world money being made on a completely virtual land.

When games like Second Life and Project Entropia can generate economies strong enough for people to quit their "real jobs" and living solely on a virtual currency you have to wonder how long before the heavyweights like Sony, NCsoft, and Blizzard start to take note and decide they want a piece of the action. Perhaps EverQuest: The Landlord Adventures? Time will tell.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 8:00 PM | Posted to MMORPG |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 15, 2006

Do You Think Those Star Wars Galaxies TV Ads Are Working?

Darth Vader Wants You!

Remember a few months ago when Sony decided to improve/retool/destroy Star Wars Galaxies and make the game a lot more accessible for your average "non-hardcore gamer"? For example, Old SW: Galaxies: what to become a Jedi? Just play the game for a couple of thousand hours and then maybe, just maybe, you could become a Jedi (if you're very lucky). New SW: Galaxies: want to become a Jedi? Poof, you're a Jedi!

Of course in the process of making the game "more accessible" Sony ended up destroying most the flavor of the original game. Not to mention that the vast majority of the people who were actually playing SW: Galaxies were the hardest of the hard-core. As you might imagine they did not react to the complete nerfing of their game very well.

But what I find so interesting about this whole episode is the aftermath. Specifically the Star Wars Galaxies television commercials which have been running on Spike, G4 and a few other channels where one might expect to find ... err, "Star Wars Enthusiasts/Casual Gamer". If you haven't seen these commercials yet, definitely take a look (you can view the two 30-second spots here and here).

Now I realize that video games have had their fair share of bad commercials (rapping Zelda anyone?), but these SW: Galaxies commercials almost border on infomercial they're so bad. At least the rapping Zelda commercial was funny, these commercials are just bad.

Of course the real question is I wonder if these commercials are working. I haven't been able to get the latest subscription numbers on SW: Galaxies, but somehow I don't think your average "Star Wars Enthusiasts/Casual Gamer" is flocking to the game. What do you think?

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 PM | Posted to MMORPG |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 10, 2006

When Does An Online World Become a Virtual Nation?

World of AzerothThere always seems to be some sort of brouhaha happening in the World of Warcraft, but rather than your standard topics of server lag and endless queues (both of which are still major issues) the latest controversy deals with some very interesting “real world” issues. Over the past two weeks a series of events occurred that centered around a woman who was trying to recruit for her GLBT-friendly (Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered) guild. A Blizzard GM saw this recruitment and cited her for "Harassment - Sexual Orientation", stating that her speech violated WoW’s policies. Very shortly after this occurred a large number of events took place, including a much closer examination of WoW's in-game policies and the involvement of the nation's oldest and largest legal group dedicated to the protection of gay and lesbian civil rights, Lambda Legal.

The good news is that it appears that potentially ugly incident has been rectified for the time being, with Blizzard reviewing their policies and apologizing for the event. Although this incident is quite interesting in its own right it is not what caught my attention.

You see something is happening in WoW that I have been patiently waiting for ever since I first read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. That one day a new nation would appear on the planet Earth, only that this nation would be totally virtual ... and I believe that that day has come. The issue outlined above would have never become such a lightening bolt of controversy and activity if WoW was “just another game”. This issue became a nationwide story because WoW has become a virtual nation of millions and as a virtual nation it is starting to have to deal with larger issues that come with becoming a world power.

So how did this happen and what does it mean? And makes WoW unique and become one of the world's first virtual nations? Much like Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics" I too have put together a list of rules which a virtual world must pass in order to become officially recognized as virtual nation.

My first requirement is that a virtual nation must have a visual representation which allows for their inhabitants to express themselves in a social, cultural, and emotional manner easily recognizable by understandable by other inhabitants. WoW easily passes these tests as their 3D avatar system allows you express yourself in WoW. Socially you can talk with others, make both "real life" as well as NPC friends (and enemies), join guilds, go on socially bonding activities such as guild raids and party quests, write letters to one another, sit down to eat and drink with one another and so much more. Nearly all social activities which are available to you in the terrestrial world are available to you in WoW.

This leads to the next requirement, culture, where WoW also passes the test. In fact, WoW might pass this test too well as between all the of holidays in WoW, the extensive world history, WoW-slang, and the thousands of unique animals, plants, food, drink, monsters, regions, languages, races, classes, and so on that I almost need a comprehensive guide to understand it all.

Which then leads us to last requirement of this first rule, the ability to express yourself emotionally quickly and easily. Once again WoW easily passes this test. Between the avatar system which allows for a myriad of animated emotes and expressions to the world itself which allows people to send each other wrapped gifts, dress in a wide range of clothing options and styles, or even the ability to get married in a church, WoW easily passes this test. And with that, WoW passes the first of my rules.

My second test is that a virtual nation must have an economy strong enough to compete and be recognized by the world economy. Once again, WoW passes this test. Not only does WoW have a thriving economy within WoW itself with its worldwide system of auction houses, but WoW Gold has a very real value in the economy of the world. Want to convert your US Dollars, Euros, British Pounds, Japanese Yen, South-Korean Won, Taiwan Dollar, Hong Kong Dollar, or Chinese Yuan into WoW Gold? No problem, there are dozens of web sites which will convert your hard currency into WoW Gold (and back) if you wish. In fact, the WoW economy is so strong that WoW Gold holds its own against these world currencies, so much so that trading in WoW Gold has become a multi-million dollar worldwide business. So WoW passes my second test, it has a strong, far-reaching economy.

Finally my last law, that a virtual nation must have a population large enough and diverse enough to allow for the first two rules to continue to grow and evolve through the actions of the inhabitants of the virtual nation. Sure there are dozens of other MMORPGs that come and gone over the years that might also pass this rule, but none of them have approached the size, scope, and reach of WoW. Currently WoW has a world population of 5.5 million "subscribers" which ranks WoW as the 112th largest nation on Earth, currently between Nicaragua and Denmark in terms of population. Plus, unlike most world nations, WoW has very lax emigration policies, all you need is access to WoW via computer and the ability to pay the fee and you too can join the nation of WoW. This policy has allowed WoW to growth at a breakneck pace of 300,000 - 400,000 new citizens a month. In addition, WoW is not a local phenomenon centered on a single terrestrial nation. WoW reaches some of the largest countries on earth including North America, Europe, China, South Korea, Oceania, as well as many others. In short order there won't be a place on the planet that won't have access to the land of Azeroth. In my book that marks WoW as one of the very few virtual worlds which not only meets but very nearly surpasses this rule.

So what does this all mean? What's the big deal if WoW is a virtual nation? Who cares if a GM in WoW is limiting the actions of a single individual? Very simply put, WoW is becoming something much more than "just a game". It is becoming a land where people can share their thoughts ideas, where they can exchange their cultural beliefs as well as create new ones, where fortunes can be made, both real and virtual, where people can make new friends, meet old friends, fight, and fall in love, where they can express their emotions and explore feelings not normally allowed to them in their terrestrial existence ... in essence, WoW is becoming a land very real and very important to millions of people. WoW is becoming a virtual nation.

What is truly interesting is that WoW is becoming something much bigger than even Blizzard might realize. They might have created the structure and environment in which WoW inhabits, but it is its citizens which are giving WoW life and allowing it to grow and evolve. So when something as seemingly innocent as a GM preventing someone from recruiting for a GLBT-friendly guild this is no longer a simple action of a GM affecting a life of a single user. This is a far-reaching issue which affects the lives of the millions of inhabitants in the nation of Azeroth. If WoW was simply “just a game” this incident would have gone unnoticed and would have affected only a small handful of people. But as virtual nation with millions of citizens this small incident very quickly became a fireball of controversy with very far reaching and real consequences.

WoW might simply still be "a game" in the eyes of Blizzard, something they created to make money and to entertain people throughout the world. But Blizzard might have done too good of a job when they created WoW. They created a land which much more than simply going on quests and maxing out your character's levels. They have created a land which has its own culture, a land where people feel truly connected and part of world, a land where people spend a significant amount of their time not only to occasionally visit but to live major portions of their lives. WoW has become a virtual nation and as the “owners” of WoW Blizzard has the responsibility to run this nation in a fair and sound manner. Blizzard must understand and realize that WoW is no longer “just a game” and that even the smallest actions can have very real and very significant consequences in the daily lives of millions of people. That to WoW is something much more than sum of its parts.

Blizzard might have set out just to create a game, but they have in fact given birth to virtual nation. And what that means and how that will affect the terrestrial world we are only first starting to discover.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 3:00 PM | Posted to Culture | MMORPG |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 8, 2006

Make Your Own World of Warcraft Items

The Rubber Chicken ... of Doom!I believe this goes under the category of "wow that is totally cool, but yet I can't think of a single good use for it". Anyhow, check out this extremely cool World of Warcraft Item Creator web page. Now you too can make your own WoW Weapon/Armor for the entire world to see.

Of course, I can't really think of a good use for this. Perhaps you can make imaginary items for your own personal web site (like me, heh). Or you can make elaborate geek pranks for your WoW friends (one of my favorite geek pranks is to go onto my friend's computer and rename all of his folders ... classic). Or you can actually make this Foxtrot item for "real". Or you could, err, well, I can't really think of a very good use for this tool.

But it sure is fun to use!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 10:00 PM | Posted to MMORPG |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 5, 2006

Poll: Have You Ever Bought Gold?

Gold Them Thar Be!A few weeks ago I asked the question "Are Gold Farmers Really All That Bad?" and I have to say that I was really impressed with the discussion that post generated. I was also surprised just polarizing that subject was with my readers, many of who were completely against the entire idea of gold farming and thought the idea was morally reprehensible. While others took the side that in a free market economy anything goes, if there is demand then enterprising people will provide the supply.

So let's tackle a simple topic this week, have you ever bought gold for an MMORPG before? I also added a few other answers in there besides the standard "yes" and "no", but it will be interesting to see just how many people have taken part of this practice.

And for the record I have bought gold in WoW as research for a piece in a past Gaming Steve podcast episode. I did it twice and I have never done it since ... so there we go. Let the voting begin!

Have you ever bought gold?
Yes, I have bought gold for WoW
Yes, I have bought gold/money for another MMORPG
No, but I plan to in the near future
No, but I would if I had more money
No, buying gold is evil
  

Posted by Gaming Steve at 3:00 PM | Posted to MMORPG | Poll |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 4, 2006

Poll Results: How Many Hours Have You Spent Playing World of Warcraft?

poll-2-4-06.gifI asked a little less than two weeks ago "How Many Hours Have You Spent Playing World of Warcraft?" and the results were a bit surprising (at least to me). When I was making the poll I never thought that anyone would really answer more than 2000 hours. But yet 11% of the people who voted claim that they have spent more than 2500 hours playing WoW, which is pretty mind-blowing if true.

But then I started to think about it a little. Personally I have spent around 500 hours total playing WoW since the release -- I forgot to include time spent playing my Alt characters last time, but that does not include my time spent playing the "Blizzard Friends and Family WoW Beta" for one year (in which case my grand total would be well over 1000 hours). And most of those 500 hours were played during the first two months after release when I was playing WoW like crazy. So let's say that in just two months time I played about 400 hours of WoW in total. And when I was playing I was also working fulltime, so I could only at night and during the weekends, yet somehow I managed to squeeze in 400 hours of gameplay. That, in retrospect, was totally crazy (I think I can see why my wife was starting to get a bit peeved at me playing this game all the time).

Now I can only imagine how much you could play this game if you had a fair amount of free time on your hands. I have one friend who was unemployed and he would easily play 80-100 hours of WoW ... per week. So I guess I really shouldn't be that surprised that there are people out there pumping 2500+ hours into this game since its release.

What I want to know is what are you doing during this time? Once I hit level 60 a lot of the "buzz" faded from the game and it just hasn't had the same hold over me since. What are you people who are playing WoW (or any MMO for that matter) hundreds of hours a month doing? What is keeping your interest in these games?

Look for a new poll tomorrow!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 5:00 PM | Posted to MMORPG | Poll |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 30, 2006

Dofus ... the Little MMO That Could

Dofus!I've been playing a bit of Ankama Games Flash-based MMORPG Dofus and so far I've been pleasently surprised just how much fun this game is to play.

Real quick rundown: at first glance the game appears to be the lovechild of WoW and Pokemon, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Once you load it up you'll immediately be struck by the stunningly beautiful animation and graphics (I'm having fun just running around the world to see all the amazing scenery). As for all the other MMO staples they're all here and accounted for: eleven unique character classes (no fighters, mages, or rogues here, instead you'll play Ecaflips, Sadidas, Sacriers, amoung others), twenty different professions, a deep crafting system, a small monthly fee of around $7 (you can also play a small portion of the game totally for free), guilds, quests, and all the other MMO stuff you know and love.

But my favorite part of the game so far has been the turn-based tactical combat engine. It's deep, moves along at a brisk pace, and requires serious thought on the higher levels (oh yeah, you can get your character up to level 200 ... ouch that's a lot of levels). Fans of Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics will definitely want to give this game a try just for the combat system alone.

I have not played Dofus enough to give a truly in-depth review just yet (look for that in a future podcast) but I can give a Gaming Steve "check it out as it's free to try and there is a lot of unique elements in there which should hold your interest for at least a few gaming sessions".

Ironically the game that I am really keeping my eye on is not Dofus but Ankama Games next project, Dofus-Arena. This game is still in beta-test and there isn't a whole lot of information about the game, but just the screenshots alone look intriguing. From what I can tell Dofus-Arena will allow turn-based tactical combat from a top-down isometric view in an MMO world mixed with a collectable card game. I only have six words ... oh my god that sounds amazing! I need to get into that beta-test right away! Anyone out there playing this one yet? Do tell!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 9:00 PM | Posted to MMORPG |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 24, 2006

Poll: How Many Hours Have You Spent Playing World of Warcraft?

World of Warquest

Tonight I was speaking to a friend who was contemplating quitting World of Warcraft because he was starting to get "bored" with it. So I asked him what level his characters were and it turns out that he has two level 60 characters, one level 50 character, another level 35 character, and several other "miscellaneous" characters. In total he said that he's played around 1500 hours (and he's just starting to get bored?).

The crazy part is that my other friend, who was also present during this discussion and just recently quit WoW, managed to build up three characters to level 60 as well as "at least one character of each class to at least level 35". When I asked him about his timed played he wouldn't give me a definitive answer but he said that "all together it was over 100 days in total".

That's 2400 hours playing just WoW ... and he just quit ... and he said he was going to start it up again when the expansion came out. Wow.

I myself am a mere novice compared to my friends as I've barely logged 400 hours into the game. I don't know about you, but to me spending 400 hours on any one game represents a huge amount of time, but my commitment to WoW pales in comparison to them (as well as most of my friends).

So my question to those out there who are pouring your gaming hours into WoW, how many hours have you spent in the land of Azeroth? (FYI, you can determine your total time playing with any one character by issuing the "/played" command.)

This poll is now closed, but you can view the results.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 AM | Posted to MMORPG | Poll |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!